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Verrill Dana, LLP

Verrill Dana, LLP is one of New England's preeminent regional law firms. With offices in Portland and Augusta, ME; Boston, MA; Westport, CT; Providence, RI; and Washington D.C. Verrill Dana provides sophisticated legal representation to businesses and individuals in the traditional areas of litigation, real estate, business law, labor and employment law, employee benefits, environmental law, intellectual property and estate planning.  The Firm also has industry-focused specialties including higher education, health care and health technology, energy, and timberlands. 

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Entries in Union (27)


A Bourbon Conundrum

The recent week-long strike at two Jim Beam facilities in Kentucky highlights a very interesting tension in the current workplace.   Workers at the Boston and Clermont, Kentucky facilities overwhelmingly rejected the second contract proposal in two weeks, stepping out on strike on October 15, 2016.  The second contract proposal included “substantial wage increases” for already very well-paid employees, which left management at a quandary as to why the workers voted to strike. The workers, for their part, wanted a guarantee that the company would hire more full-time workers and stop relying as heavily on temporary workers, among other complaints with the contract proposal.  The crux of their complaint was that they felt that they had to work too much and it was interfering with work-life balance. 

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NLRB: Grad Students at Private Schools Can Join Unions

Well, law school certainly felt like a job to your humble correspondent, and now it appears that the National Labor Relations Board agrees.

Actually, it’s not quite that simple; however, on Tuesday, the NLRB ruled that grad students working as teaching and research assistants at private universities (specifically Columbia University) are entitled to collective bargaining. In so doing, the Board reversed its 2004 decision concerning a similar push for unionization at Brown University. Pending a challenge to the decision, the UAW will represent the Columbia grad students.

Decision accessible here; story containing a timeline of efforts at graduate student unionization here and here.

Also, stay tuned for follow up post by my colleague, Joanna Bowers, with her take on the dissent.


Beer Distributor Appeals NLRB Finding as to Terminated Union Employee Who Reeked of Marijuana

Appellate briefing to the Second Circuit was completed earlier this week in Manhattan Beer Distributors LLC v. NLRB, a case in which the NLRB, in 2015, held that Manhattan Beer Distributors violated an employee’s Weingarten rights when they terminated a distribution employee who “reeked” of marijuana after he refused to submit to a drug test without a union representative present.

In NLRB v. J. Weingarten Inc. (1975), the U.S. Supreme Court held that an employee has a statutory right to request a union representative during an investigative interview which the employee reasonably believes could result in disciplinary action. In the current action, the question was whether the submission to a drug test was “an investigatory interview” which would thus result in the employee having Weingarten rights.

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4-4 Split at Supreme Court Allows Public Unions to Continue Collecting Agency Fees from Non-Members

On March 29, 2016, the Supreme Court issued a one sentence decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.” Friedrichs is the second 4-4 decision of the term, a circumstance brought about by the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia in February.

As previously discussed here, the plaintiffs in Friedrichs sought to overturn a 1977 Supreme Court decision, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which held that public unions can make non-members pay agency fees. Both the District Court and the Ninth Circuit had dismissed the plaintiffs’ case, finding that the outcome was controlled by Abood. Therefore, the plaintiffs’ only chance of changing the law and overturning Abood was having the Supreme Court find in their favor. However, with the 4-4 split of the Court, the decision of the Ninth Circuit was affirmed, leaving intact Abood’s holding and allowing public unions to continue collecting agency fees from non-members.

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Makers of Milk’s Favorite Cookie not Favorites of Employer, Says Union

In anticipation of planned layoffs at a Chicago factory that produces such confections as Oreos and Chips Ahoy, the union for workers at the factory has taken the somewhat unusual (albeit not unprecedented) step of filing a complaint of discrimination with the EEOC. In its complaint to the EEOC, the union alleges that the planned layoffs are improperly motivated by age and racial bias.

The owner of the factory, Mondelez International, has said that the layoffs are necessary to save $46 million per year in order to provide for technology upgrades and to prevent locating up to 600 positions to a factory in Mexico. In its complaint, however, the union countered that none of the other Mondelez factories that required capital expenditures sought to save money for doing so by laying-off workers. Additionally, the union argued that the demographics of the Chicago factory are different than those of the other Mondalez factories in that about 86% of the employees in the union are over the age of 40 and about 68% are people of color. Despite those assertions and arguments, the union did not, however, provide the demographics of non-union employees at the factory or the demographics of employees at the other factories that allegedly did not require lay-offs.

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Teamsters: Keep MillerCoors Brewery Open!

Interesting intersection between the worlds of beer and labor law as Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa sent a letter to executives at SABMiller, Molson Coors and MillerCoors, urging them not to close the MillerCoors brewery in Eden, North Carolina.

You can read the letter here, however, Hoffa essentially called MillerCoors out on its economic justifications for closing the brewery and claimed that the real reasons for doing so were to cut capacity and raise prices in the U.S. and “to avoid regulatory scrutiny during the federal government’s antitrust review of the Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) and SABMiller (SAB) merger, and the related sale of SAB’s stake in the MillerCoors joint venture to Molson Coors.”

No response from the brewers to Hoffa’s letter as of yet. And no truth to the rumor that this post was an excuse to spend 8:51 of my life watching this on YouTube.